"Bringest thou unto us the truth, or art thou
Flown the coop?
Franchone investigates, though he knows
already... knew before he reached his top-floor digs. He dumps the
groceries, walks half-heartedly out and down a derelict corridor.
Aside from a tomcat drinking from the toilet bowl, the communal john
is vacant. He returns.
So much for wining and dining the refugee. Just
my luck. Could've 'served' Denise. Or dropped by Eartha's for a romp
in her single-momma flannel.
He stows the pasta, produce, canned goods and
Chianti in a bare-shelved cupboard, pulls a cord to shut the
Venetian blinds, then rolls a joint of ganja
(from his stash in a hollow wooden fish)... lights up... sits cross-legged...
Girl's running scared; I may have underrated
what's-his-face; "Almond" I think she called him, Z's purported
nemesis—come, she claims, to "kill" her. Sounds bizarre.
Farfetched, at least. Though I admit he's one spooky hombre,
possibly a nutcase—pun intended. But death threats? Mayhem?
Franchone inhales...holds the smoke in...then finally
breathes it out.
All I have to go on are my egocentric hunches. Me
projecting me; the pitfall of self-expression. Is that what
being an author is, foisting my perspective on an unsuspecting
public prone to swallowing words in print—especially when they're
prefaced "based on a true story"? Who's the bigger doofus; the
'fooler' or the fooled?
He takes another toke.
Maybe I'm approaching this all wrong. I need an
insight. Something substantive. Or prophetic? Like a brainstorm,
deep, profound. Involving characters who are true to life, not props
for mere invention. "Do not write with an agenda," pundits counsel.
Craft, design, but let the plot and those who people it represent
I first saw Z on a city bus in the fog-clogged
streets of San Francisco. She stood out, without
intending to. Caught my eye, and then my gaze. But not
per usual: boy meets girl, boy makes a pass, girl
offhand snubs him. True, it went like that initially.
Don't blame her; the cause was me. I hit on women out of
habit. Call it "ethno-insecurity." Being Black, I have
to overcome the world's worst rep. Which sucks. I'm not
a felon, or a dropout, or a drunk, or a deadbeat dad. I
don't wear drawers that expose my boxers, snap my gum,
gold-plate my teeth. Nor do I smack my lips when I eat
or speak at earsplitting volume. Racist, though this
city is (like every city in America), "Baghdad by
the Bay" is not as bad as most. Seldom, for example,
does a woman I stand next to clutch her purse. Unless
she's Asian; they mistrust us. As do Russians, Arabs,
Sikhs. Ask any other ethnic group to rank the ones they
esteem, and mine, on every list, will come in last.
Getting back to Z, she had a paperback in her lap:
The Meaning of the Glorious Koran An explanatory
translation by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall... which
I've read (in my 'religious phase,' an affront, of
sorts, to my bible-thumper pappy) thus an ideal
introduction, had I seized it, to Ms. Nibs, who had this
holly-roller force field shooting sparks around her.
What I said instead betrayed a less high-minded purpose.
Z's physique, though well concealed, was safely in my
red zone. Seeking to converse (at first), I shifted
gears to score—indicative of an inbred scorn toward
women... legacy of the slave trade; men were robbed of
self-respect, the roles of husband, father,
breadwinner undermined by "Massah." Women, on the other
hand, breastfed babies, cooked, sewed, cleaned, became
the nannies, maids, and wet-nurses of the very folks who
oppressed them, therefore specialized, as it were, in
accepting responsibility—a take-charge mode their
men to-this-day resent: Pinkney's Premise For Explaining
Black Misogyny (copyright: this minute).
Franchone pauses... reviews, with mild disgust,
the page he has just composed... aware it is nine parts him, the
tenth part sketching Z.
Here's something telling. I 'deduced' that Z was a
virgin; she freaked out, pronounced me "insolent
and uncouth." But it
was more than my discourtesy that upset her. Pinched a
nerve. From which I further deduced she's suffering some
kind of post-traumatic syndrome. She had bruises in her
eyes when taking me to task. Chances are she's damaged―sexually―if 'virtually' intact. When I massaged
her―yes, she yielded to the Patented Pinkney Ploy―I felt
residuals from some unnamed, hardcore outrage.
Or she's gay. We played this hide-and-seek of dos and
don'ts the whole time she submitted. Women rarely, once
agreeing to be rubbed, set boundaries all that strict. So when
she armed herself―with a pen, no less, that I, on
demand, supplied her―it was clear she wasn't kidding.
Misbehave and risk riposte (as if a ballpoint Bic could
defend her overrated chastity).
Franchone, ill at ease (the ganja tapping
paranoia) reconsiders Z's potential for inflicting bodily harm. A
girl, a child could prove destructive, if psychotic. Was Z stable?
Was it rash to offer refuge; was it safe to have brought her home?
And what about Almond (sic), Z's pursuer; was he dangerous?
Treacherous? Murderous? Had he trailed them? Was he lurking, or on
the verge of closing
in? A siren sounds! Franchone, unused to smoking pot, reacts with
panic. The police, he fears, are on their way to
bust him. Tense, he chokes. A fit of coughing drowns out what? The
siren's blessed decrescendo. He relaxes, then resumes his would-be
tour de force.
Politics. Z's a radical. I sure sleuthed out that, right
quick. She made this comment: 'Malcolm X, we should have
crowned, not Doctor King,' as if the Movement would have
fared better under "freedom by any means necessary."
Both eye-for-an-eye and turn-the-other-cheek have pluses
and minuses each. Wonder if she's right, though; would
equality now be ours had we taken arms up then? One
thing's certain, Whites have never subscribed to
the Christian code of pacifism―and are pleased as punch
when Blacks sing "Jesus Saves."
Once again, Franchone reviews the content of his
narrative. Once again, it strikes him as self-centered. He snuffs
out the joint. After-effects of cannabis ebb and flow within
his system, give him confidence then revoke it, make him trust then
doubt the voice, its perspicacity / egomania playing
tug-of-war, its astuteness contradicted by its biases. Real?
Delusional? Worthy of pursuit? Or
cotton-candy wisps that naked Truth pragmatically dissolves?
Having written down the title, he examines what
inspired it. Like a catchphrase out of context, it just sits there
on the page, defying reason yet awakening hosts of vague
associations—which their ne'er-do-well creator struggles to